By Mason Nichols
Throughout 2017, the NPCA professional staff worked diligently to expand the use of quality precast concrete products by converting specifications, participating in codes and standards meetings, exhibiting at trade shows, presenting to students and specifiers and placing targeted advertisements across a variety of communication channels.
Staff members traveled across the U.S. to conduct in-person presentations for specifiers at engineering and architecture firms and for students at universities. Late in the year, in the span of just one month, staff members led 17 presentations attended by more than 700 people. And while the number of people trained on the advantages of precast concrete made a difference this year, the knowledge being disseminated and the connections made will likely have a tremendous future impact.
Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP, director of sustainability and technical education, explained the importance of spreading the message of precast, particularly among college students.
“The majority of students hardly ever hear about precast, if they hear about it at all,” he said. “We’ve spoken to students in engineering, architecture, construction management and concrete industry management programs. The curricula for most of those students does not include anything on precast.”
Students have been highly engaged in these presentations, asking questions, following up for more information and signing up for NPCA Student Memberships. Goguen noted that he can often see the effect his words have during his presentations.
“I see light bulbs go on,” he said. “I talk about a precast application such as paving slabs or something that’s a little more unorthodox, and students begin to nod as if to say, ‘Oh, I never thought of that.’”
Opening students’ eyes to the versatility of precast concrete has been very successful, but an additional focus of this effort is fostering relationships between schools and NPCA Producer Members. By having a local partner in the precast industry, a school can work directly with a manufacturer to coordinate plant tours, assist with lab work and more. At the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wis., Goguen connected Andy Wieser, president of Wieser Concrete Products in Maiden Rock, Wis., with a professor in the school’s construction management program.
Students in the program had previously built their class projects out of wood and masonry, largely due to a lack of knowledge about concrete. Through their partnership with Wieser Concrete Products, the school now will be able to not only learn more about precast, but also gain practical experience with it as well.
“Hopefully, this relationship will continue to flourish and grow for many, many years,” Goguen said.
NPCA remains committed to championing the use of precast concrete through varied approaches and endeavors, and will continue to target both the specifying and student communities throughout 2018.
Mason Nichols is the managing editor of Precast Solutions magazine and is NPCA’s director of strategic outreach.